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Like a Local

Quirky, under-the-radar highlights only a local could recommend.


Synchronous Fireflies in Elkmont

This incredible natural phenomenon occurs each summer just minutes from downtown Gatlinburg. Typically between late May and mid-June, tens of thousands lighting bugs gather in swarms around the Elkmont campground and, after dark, begin to light up – in perfect synchronized harmony. As the largest population of synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere, they are the only species in America that can synchronize their flashing light patterns. Tickets to the viewing sell out fast, so stay in the loop here

Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community

Just three miles away from downtown Gatlinburg tucked in the hills of the Smoky Mountains resides North America’s largest organization of independent artisans. More than 120 artists and craftspeople live here along what’s known as the eight-mile Arts & Crafts Loop, where you can see everything from elaborate quilts and old-fashioned straw brooms to Victorian ceramic pitchers and dulcimers being made by hand using age-old techniques. 

Song & Hearth

Breakfast is at its best at this sit-down eatery, specializing in Southern food with a fine-dining flair, within Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa™. Think custom-made omelets, a big assortment of fresh-made breakfast pastries, a carving station, breads, grits, potatoes – the list goes on. Definitely try the cinnamon roll pancakes – it’s a work of edible art. 

Apple Barn Cider Mill General Store

Based on an orchard of 4,000 trees and in a real barn that was built in 1910, this three-story store offers everything apple – apple cider, apple pies, apple doughnuts, apple dumplings, apple butter, apple art, and more. Still, be sure to check out their other homemade goodies: maple-glazed ham, ice cream, even wine. We promise it’s just as good.

Wild Plum & Tea Room

Like something out of Little House on the Prairie, this sweet old-world-style tea room is tucked in a cabin in the wood next to a mountain stream outside of downtown Gatlinburg. Open seasonally just for lunch, the establishment is famous for its wild plum tea (poured hot or cold) served in dainty porcelain teacups on lace-adorned café tables. The menu changes regularly, but a few signatures include the lobster pie and salmon burger. 

The Weekender

How to spend 36 hours in Pigeon Forge, with Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and SpaTM as your base camp.



6 p.m. | Get Your Game On

What better way to kick off your vacation than with a little friendly family competition? After checking in, head to the resort’s on-site family game room to kill some time before your dinner reservation. It’s chock-full of classics like arcade basketball, air hockey, foosball, and the latest gaming consoles.

7:40 p.m. | Dolly Parton’s Stampede

While the main act of Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner theater doesn’t start until 8:30, arrive early to see all the pre-dinner entertainment of comedy and musical acts by the bluegrass band, Mountain Rukus. The heart of the experience, however, is the four-course feast headlined by rotisserie chicken and barbecue pork loin that is enjoyed while watching 32 magnificent horses perform stunts to music.


8:30 a.m. | Pancakes Please

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Ford have no shortage of great pancake houses, so it takes a special place to stand out. The one that does so? Gatlinburg’s Log Cabin Pancake House, an authentic log-style restaurant that serves an array of specialty cakes. We suggest the Caribbean Pancakes stuffed with sliced bananas, pan fried, and topped with more bananas, nuts, coconut, and powdered sugar.

10 a.m. | Ripley’s Aquarium 

Just a little over a mile away, you’ll find one of the top-rated aquariums in the country: Ripley’s Aquarium, featuring one-and-a-half-million gallons of water and 100,000 exotic sea creatures. However, the main attraction comes in the 340-foot underwater glass-enclosed tunnel, where a moving glide-path (similar to those movable pathways in airports) whisks you past snappers, tarpons, sea turtles, stingrays, and very large sharks.

12 p.m. | Lunch and Luging

Head to Ober Gatlinburg, a four-season ski mountain that opened more than 50 years ago and still retains its 1970s vintage charm. But before hitting the alpine slide or the scenic life or seeing the wildlife encounter show, take the aerial tramway to grab lunch at Seasons of Ober, overlooking the mountain and serving German specialties.

5 p.m. | The Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge

Upon entering this two-story museum shaped like the RMS Titanic, you are given your “boarding pass” (read: admission ticket) and device that you wear around your neck that acts as your tour guide. While perusing 400 fascinating pre-discovery artifacts in its 20 gallery displays, guests are made to feel as they are one of the original passengers during the ship’s 1912 maiden – and only – voyage.

8 p.m. | Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Adventure

A Dollywood dinner theater experience, Pirate’s Voyage Dinner & Show invites ye to join Captain Blackbeard, the most famous pirate to ever sail the seven seas, and his quartermaster Calico Jack as they lead the Crimson and Sapphire crews in an epic battle for lost treasure on land, on deck, in water and high above full-sized pirate ships in a 15 foot deep indoor hideaway lagoon.


9 a.m. | Breakfast like a Frontiersman

There is perhaps no heartier breakfast than the breakfast you’ll get at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, serving favorites like pecan-smoked bacon, corned beef hash, country ham, moonshine sausage, and giant omelets made with no less than three farm fresh eggs. The building is marked by two giant skillets on the front and in the interior atmosphere features period decor, like potbelly stoves, barrels, covered wagons, and blacksmith tools.

10:30 a.m. | Sunday Drive with Pink Jeep Adventure Tours

You can’t leave this area without witnessing the beauty of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Play Like A Kid, Pay Like A Kid when you book one of our Pink Adventure Tours! Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa and Pink Adventure Tours are happy to offer you an exclusive rate that is only available for guests of our resort. Experience some of the most incredible views in the nation. Embark on a guided tour to see what seems like forever over the Great Smoky Mountains from a vantage point nearly 1-mile high or roll through charming and lively Gatlinburg in an iconic, open-air Pink® Jeep® Wrangler and go where tour busses can’t go and visit a collection of 19th century farm buildings to see how families lived over 100 years ago.

Flavor of…

The best food artisans, farms, and local markets.


Photo Courtesy of Courthouse Donuts

Courthouse Donuts

Located across the street from the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville, this shop makes doughnuts while you watch and come with your choice of 30 toppings that include everything from Fruity Pebbles to warm cherries to golden grahams. Can’t decide? Pick the crowd favorite, The Bumble Bee, a glazed donut topped with caramel, chocolate, and honey.


Photo Courtesy of The Old Mill Square

The Old Mill Square

Turn onto Old Mill Ave off of Route 441 and head straight – back 200 years to this plaza, home to a working nineteenth-century watermill, where cornmeal, grits, flours, and other grains are made, then packaged to be sold in the on-site general store.


Photo Courtesy of Artisan Cheese & More

Artisan Cheese & More

Located in a hidden nook in the downtown Gatlinburg strip, this new gourmet store sells nuts, honey, jams, jellies, mustards, and, of course, local and international cheeses. The owner lets you sample until you find the right cheese for you, but might we suggest the beer cheddar made by a three-generation family of Wisconsin cheesemakers. 


Smoky Mountain Farms Jelly House

There are many places in Gatlinburg that sell jellies, but perhaps there’s no more lauded local store than this unassuming small shop off of 321 (about 20 minutes south of Pigeon Forge). Hundreds of jams and jellies are made right there in the store with most of them available for sampling before you purchase. 


The Adventurist

When simply “seeing” a destination just won’t do. 


Hiking the Best of the Smokies | Smoky Mountain National Park

More than 850 miles of hiking trails traverse the Great Smoky Mountains that range from easy to difficult and provide half-hour walks to week-long backpacking trips. One of the best to check out: Alum Cave, featuring an 80-foot-high cave-like concaved bluff and views of the famous Eye of the Needle, an unusual hole in the rock near the top of Little Duck Hawk Ridge. 


Wildwood Grove is Now Open | Dollywood

Follow a butterfly to the Wildwood Tree as you enter through the fallen, hollow log. Wildwood Grove comes to life with dragonflies, fireflies, frogs and friendly black bears taking you on an adventure only Dolly Parton could have imagined.

The spectacular new land features 11 new breathtaking experiences including six new family friendly rides, an indoor play area and much more. At the heart of the hidden land is the nearly 52-foot-tall Wildwood Tree. Hundreds of lighted butterflies dance in a kaleidoscope of colors in the tree’s leafy canopy, while the land’s ambassadors, Flit and Flutter, greet guests nearby.


Photo Courtesy of Nantahala Outdoor Center

Whitewater Rafting The Pigeon| Nantahala Outdoor Center

This two-and-a-half-hour tour rushes five miles down the upper part of the Pigeon River over nearly continuous class II to IV rapids, like Lost Guide and Accelerator, while granting you great views into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.